December 12, 2011


“My son’s experiences with addiction have provided me with a gift that has changed my life!”

Life is full of surprises.  Sometimes we are delighted by the unanticipated gift; other times we are knocked off our feet by the unexpected news.  Either way, a surprise could be an opportunity for you to experience, celebrate, or enjoy something that you didn’t expect.

I was thinking about life’s surprises when I was listening to someone talk about how children look at different types of Christmas gifts.  Some gifts, usually the more unpractical ones, are the gifts everyone loves to open.  The gifts children put on their list for Santa – the game, the toy, the bike, the doll – are always the favorite, most happily received gifts.  These are the gifts that are used and loved for a while until another great toy, doll, or game replaces it (“Toy Story” anyone?).

Then there are the practical necessary gifts that every child dreads.  We all know them as the present which contains clothes, underwear or socks.  Often discarded as the undesired gift – these are the ones that most children use and wear on a regular basis until they either grow out of it or it just plain wears out.

When we really think about it, the gifts that we dread, don’t want, or look forward to the least are the ones that are the most practical and helpful.   As children, we rarely look forward to that package with underwear, socks, or a shirt; however, it is the gift that provided us the most value and long term benefit.

Life’s surprises are pretty much the same.  Nicole Bandes has shared the saying, “the best gifts come wrapped in the ugliest packages.”  While it is hard to embrace bad news – job loss, divorce, illness, or legal issues – the opportunity these events provide us on a daily basis can be gifts.  Even though it may not seem or feel like anything positive, the lessons learned about the experience and ourselves are a gift that can be celebrated and shared — provided we are open and receptive to it.

Several years ago, I received my surprise package via a phone call from my daughter.  My youngest son was on drugs, homeless, in trouble with the law, and now, in jail.  I had no idea what to expect when I first realized how serious Brandon’s addiction was.  I was hit with a surprise package that I would never have expected or asked for.  To discover that one of your children’s lives had gotten so out of control is devastating.  However, the experiences associated with that surprise has completely transformed my life.  While I would not have willingly chosen to live through the experiences I have, I also know that I have blessed and enriched by them.

I still long for a healthy, happy, drug free life for my son.  His addiction is a curse and his lifelong battle.  I would never have asked for that surprise package.  However, through the experiences of his addiction, I have found a gift that has enlightened, strengthened, and inspired me in ways I could never have expected.  I received one of those dreaded gifts and realize now how much I utilize it every day – what a remarkable blessing!

The next time someone says “surprise” remember, whether it is something you asked for or something you dread there is very likely an opportunity for you take a valuable lesson from it.

About Dave Cooke

Dave Cooke is a dad on a mission. His mission is to help parents get control of their lives over the powerful, destructive influences of a child's addiction. As the father of a son in a ten year heroin battle, Dave knows all to well the challenges parents and families face. He also knows there is a way to find peace in the chaos. It is his mission to help parents discover their path to a healthier, balanced life even if a child's active addiction is still part of their daily journey.